In a candid interview with All Things Talent, Aalok Purohit discusses important parameters reflecting a healthy talent acquisition process, the culture at Zycus, historic shifts impacting human resources and more.
Aalok Purohit is the Director – Global Talent Acquisition (North America, Europe, and APAC) at Zycus. He is a seasoned Talent Acquisition & Management professional with exposure of hiring & mentoring world-class talent and building exceptional teams across the Middle East & South East Asian markets. As a Programmer, Project Manager, Managing Consultant, Recruiter, and an Entrepreneur, Aalok wears many hats that add to his decade’s experience in managing multi-disciplinary projects and navigating through complex challenges. He is an alumnus of Government Engineering College, Jodhpur and MDI, Gurgaon. Aalok was awarded the Young Talent of the Year 2016-17 by APAC HR Congress.
Q: You have a rich experience of building and leading cross-cultural teams across geographies. As an HR leader, how important is it for you to continuously motivate and empower your team members? Did you have any influences in your life that encouraged you to learn?
A: I am a firm believer that a leader is as good as his/her team. And the best way to create a super performing team is to empower them and guide them so that they can become the leaders of future, and not mere followers. In this VUCA world, it’s imperative to constantly motivate your team and invest in them continuously. Not only it makes them feel valued, but it also boosts productivity and efficiency. Let them make some decisions, let them face bottlenecks and let them fail sometimes. There is very little learning in success. Nothing can be a better teacher than failure.
I have always worked with leaders who made me take some tough decisions at the very dawn of my career. They were always my safety net; it’s just that I didn’t know. And that helped in learning some critical components of leadership, like due diligence, attention to detail and calculated risks.
I am a firm believer that a leader is as good as his/her team. And the best way to create a super performing team is to empower them & guide them so that they can become the leaders of future, & not mere followers.
Q: Despite having a myriad of talent acquisition platforms companies are still struggling to find candidates. According to you, where is the disconnect and what can be done about this?
A: For most of the organisations, Talent Acquisition comes as a reactive proposition. E.g. -Developing a new technology which has been committed as a product feature, hire relevant tech gurus; launching a new geographical operation where customer need local support, get delivery folks relocated. At Zycus, Talent Acquisition is a strategic arm that works directly and closely with CEO / Business & is aware of competition scenario, industry movements and organisation’s vision. Hence, rather than information piece being cascaded through multiple levels, Talent Acquisition team works as a strategic partner with BUs at real time.
If Business teams start working with TA team in a similar capacity, where Recruiters are not at disposal of business-critical information from indirect channels but are considered equal stakeholders in business growth, there won’t be any struggle to find even niche skill sets.
Q: What KPI’s do you use to measure the effectiveness of the HR function especially Talent Acquisition?
A: In recent years there has been considerable debate on deciding the most critical KPIs in Talent Acquisition. Amidst the gamut of Strategic Hiring, Mid Level hiring & Niche Recruitment, generic indicators have lost their relevance. There is no single agreed metric and every business has its own needs. Every company has its own goals and recruitment challenges which can change over time. As long as we have relevant data (structured or unstructured) to create bespoke recruitment dashboards, both TA & Business would have visibility.
For us 3 most important parameters that reflects a healthy recruitment process is-
- A current flow of candidates at first business round
- Conversion Ratio from one round to another
- Offer Acceptance Rate
The above points help in checking the diagnostics of any recruitment process and put the right checks in right time.
Q: Let’s talk more about knowing your company’s purpose. Given that mantra, how would you define the culture of Zycus and what makes it unique from others?
A: We are the world leader in complete Source-to-Pay suite of procurement performance solutions. Our comprehensive product portfolio includes applications for both the strategic and the operational aspects of procurement – eProcurement, eInvoicing, Spend Analysis, eSourcing, Contract Management, Supplier Management and Financial Savings Management.
Zycus aims at automating procurement & make it more intelligent to create a greater business impact that can be reflected among the hundreds of procurement solution deployments that we have undertaken over the years.
We believe that we have continued on the path of innovation to provide sophisticated end-to-end procurement solution suites with one focus – our customers’ happiness.
The culture at Zycus thrives on basic values that every Zycian strives for. Customer Focus, Collaboration and Innovation are the pillars on which Zycus has been able to build a scalable and profitable product culture that believes in catering to clients across the globe while collaborating with global teams across 15 countries and leveraging the most updated tech stack.
Q: It’s no secret that technological innovation brings rapid disruption. The field of human resources is no different, and we are a seeing massive change in data, analytics and artificial intelligence. What are the historic shifts impacting human resources today?
A: There has been a gamut of ground-breaking HR technology solutions emerging, & the kind of tech boom we are witnessing in the domain, is pretty much reshaping the way we work — and how we think about HR.
In my perspective, Technology advancements in HR can be divided into 3 phases:
HR 1.0: That’s the conventional HR phase with a focus on administration with very limited exposure and focus on value propositions. HR 1.0 facilitated online application sub- mission, progress tracking and record keeping. Certainly user-friendly to some extent, this phase was templated and was all about stream- lined performance reviews and company measurements. Certainly, the ecosystem desired a new phase, the one which aligns business goals with talent versus aligning business goals with the process.
HR 2.0: This new phase of HR facilitated locating, attracting and hiring the best applicants. The focus on growth, collaboration and goal alignment through review and feedback mechanisms became the new success parameters. It certainly enabled users to drive decision-making based on past results and, over time, promises to leverage data science and deep learning techniques to recommend, even automate, decision making.
HR 3.0 or SaaSified Phase: I love the new phase. This current wave of HR SaaS innovators entering the market over the past few years proves that there can be more to the story even after a segment has been almost SaaSified. As an HR leader, when we assess the market, product, competitive and talent dynamics, we see a perfect storm of enabling characteristics pushing beyond incremental innovation into the widespread disruption. Players like BetterWorks, Checkr, Culture Amp, Greenhouse, Grovo, Gusto, Justworks, Lever, Namely, Reflektive, SmartRecruiters and Zenefits have already changed the bigger game and will continue to do so. HR’s role as an administrative function will continue to shift to HR being a strategic advantage for the organisation as the department continues to be leveraged by technology.
We certainly have a lot to watch in this space!
Q: According to a study, business acumen is the most lacking skill when looking for top-level HR talent. In your opinion, why are CHROs lacking in this critical arena of human resource skills and, most importantly, what can they do about it?
A: That’s an absolutely erroneous notion that business acumen is completely lacking when it comes to top-level HR Talent. Many times it’s a perception.
Certainly, modern day’s HR requires a multi-pronged approach, accountability & a mindset of curiosity, humility, fortitude and opportunism, to find ways to bridge divides between people and business to demonstrate their competence and credibility.
HR’s role as an administrative function will continue to shift to HR being a strategic advantage for the organisation as the department continues to be leveraged by technology.
If I look from a CEO’s perspective, he won’t be interested in the fact that there is an L&D training happening for 100 hours a quarter. His/her interest would be the impact of such training interventions in increasing productivity, reducing critical employee attrition and finally incremental increase in net profits.
Many CHROs might not initiate these kinds of conversations with the business not because they aren’t able to comprehend, collect and deliver relevant information, but at times because of their limited vision and challenge to extend the conversation beyond a certain extent.
There are 3 simple tricks that can help HR talk the business language:
- Making choices that are flexible and cater to business based on exigencies rather than making a single best practice model.
- Learn the basics of Finance- Understanding of basic P&L and income statements to understand the factors that drive a shareholder’s value.
- Embracing the technology and being on top of the latest advancements that are making HR smarter and in turn adding strategic value to the business.
Q: Nearly 56% of all new hires, mostly Millennials leave their job within the first year. How can the organisation break out of traditional talent management practices and reshape talent management strategies best suited for the millennial era?
A: Three-pronged approach has worked well with Zycus where we have been able to reduce the attrition, specifically Millennials, who join from campus all over the globe.
- Take time to hire – A wrong hire is worse than a late hire.
- Emphasize core business values & not let myths and stigmas adulterate the system.
- Complex challenges & timely recognition
We have to remember that Millennials know their worth, and they’re willing to assert this to get ahead.
Q: How can we ensure, as a collective, to keep the conversation about inclusivity in the corporate world going, so that diversity becomes the standard, every day?
A: The business case for diversity and inclusion can’t be overemphasised, these are more than just buzzwords. It has been proven time and again that diversity and inclusion not just helps to spark creativity and innovation, it helps us tackle complex global challenges. Saying that I am afraid, it’s scarily close to the tokenism that diversity receives in the workplace baring few global players.
Although diversity and inclusion may be driven from the top down, its success may be felt from the bottom up. That’s why it’s so important today to plant the seeds for tomorrow.
To ensure we really make diversity and inclusion the way of life at work, we have to put the mission statement in practice to signal an explicit commitment to all employees, include diversity goals in strategic-planning processes and hold managers responsible for specific objectives, conduct employee surveys to determine whether current policies and programs are effective & celebrate milestones and achievements involving diversity groups and individuals.
Q: As someone who holds experience of working across geographies in a highly dynamic environment, which set of skills do you think HR leaders should possess which makes them highly efficient and competent?
A: I am not sure how can leadership traits be any different for an HR leader vis-à-vis business leaders. To be a successful leader, no one trait in extreme can help anyone go a long way and impact the lives of people. I believe there are 3 basic traits that I have seen in leaders I have worked with globally that made me believe in them and got the best out of me.
Decision-Making Capabilities – No one wants to work with a feeble leader who cannot take decisions at the right time in the right direction.
Delegation & Empowerment – Narcissism, Centralized power and Distrust in the team will lead to inertia on road to success.
Empathy – Empathy guides understanding and cultivates better communication.
Q: Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and automation are driving unprecedented change, and with great change comes uncertainty. How do business leaders manage uncertainty and how can AI help CHROs navigate the changing world of work?
A: Though AI has been a buzzword across the HR ecosystem and leaders have talked a lot about how efficient and effective HR can become leveraging Artificial Intelligence, I have personally used AI in our Recruitment process and two most interesting aspects of AI usage has been – Reducing bias through an algorithm assessment platform with language that is bias-free to improve a diversified pool of candidates and secondly, increase Human Experience as ironic it might sound. Where AI takes the load of administrative tasks, it leaves more room to HR folks to enhance candidate or employee experience by allowing more time for the highest-value interactions.